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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TOP 20: Proving it in Piscataway (No. 2)

Savon Huggins has the undisputed starter role he's yearned for. A third offensive coordinator and new run scheme join him. (AP Photo)

By Tyler Barto
Twitter: Tyler_Barto

Two days remain until the start of Rutgers training camp. This top-20 countdown will run infrequently, documenting who's got the most to prove in 2013.

No. 2 — junior running back Savon Huggins (6-foot, 200 pounds)

Why Huggins is on the list: Replacing a 1,000-yard rusher is never easy. But when many thought you'd do so a year ago or even earlier, it becomes a chore.

Huggins has a chance to be a feature back for the first time in his career, and there's not a viable alternative at this point to unseat him. Rutgers has tailored its run blocking under a new offensive coordinator to suit his, among others', skill set.

A fan base yearns for his arrival. A product of college football's fickle playing model, Huggins arrived in 2011 to outside promises of early success. It did not come.

Rutgers is banking on Huggins' one career 100-yard game repeating itself if/when he becomes a workhorse back. He has shown decent power, if not consistent burst. 

A 12-game sample size will confirm what Rutgers finds out about its top returner during training camp. It may say as much about an offensive line that returns four starters but still figures to see new contributors.

During training camp, keep an eye on: How Huggins adjusts to coordinator Ron Prince's zone-block run scheme.

Huggins appeared relieved with the change when he met the media in late June. He said he ran a similar scheme in high school. 
Savon Huggins said in June he knows Ron Prince's 
offense will require more than one back. (AP Photo)

The technique requires Rutgers' offensive line to account for a specific area near the line of scrimmage rather than an immediate defender. Huggins and the Scarlet Knights' linemen have to read an opening the same way for it to work.

Huggins said Prince's offense is designed with off-tackle runs and one-one-ones with linebackers and safeties in mind. 

Head coach Kyle Flood said Tuesday that Rutgers has taught three schemes — gap, man and zone blocking  since he arrived as o-line coach in 2005. He said other stops on his coaching tree emphasized zone blocking more.

2013 season outlook: Subtle philosophy tweaks could help Huggins or hint at needs to compensate for an inexperienced backfield.

While Huggins will get the majority of Rutgers' goal-line snaps, expect redshirt freshman Desmon Peoples to emerge as a change of pace. Fullback Michael Burton is pushing for an expanded workload.

Rutgers understands the fragility of expectations that follow Huggins. It will make a concerted effort to put him in situations for plus plays. A near-1,000-yard season and eight touchdowns sounds reasonable.

More from the countdown: No. 1  Gary Nova
No. 3 — Jeremy Deering

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